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RMT urges ORR to back DOO roll-out halt across Southern

Rail union RMT has written to the ORR asking it to back its calls for Southern Rail to end its planned programme of introducing driver-only operated (DOO) services.

Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is planning to replace train guards with on-board supervisors (OBS), who do not have the ability to operate doors.

However, RMT said the proposals were thrown into doubt by a new notice GTR has issued to staff, which says that the OBS should alight from the train at unstaffed stations to see if any passengers need help boarding their train.

This would involve putting their key in the steward’s panel to stop their set of doors from closing while the train is at the station.

Mick Cash, the union’s general secretary, said: “The bottom line is that the company is effectively admitting that they have got it wrong and that, in order to maintain safety and access, they need a second, safety-critical member of staff on these trains.”

The RMT, which has already announced a programme of strikes in protest at DOO roll-out, published a letter where Cash urged Ian Prosser, the ORR’s chief inspector of railways, to investigate the situation and support RMT’s demand for GTR to halt the implementation of DOO.

The union argued the GTR notice raised questions about the role of OBS staff and whether they are adequately trained to fulfil it, and expressed concern because the notice says that trains will run without an OBS “in exceptional circumstances”.

It also asked the ORR whether it had approved the proposal on safety grounds and as an amendment to GTR’s disabled persons’ protection policy.

However, GTR insisted the new role did not represent allowing OBS staff to operate the doors.

A Southern spokesperson said: “The procedure is clear: the driver will have full responsibility and control for opening and closing the doors. On-board supervisors will use a key to keep their door open if they need to help passengers get on or off the train. But it is the driver who will ensure all doors are closed before the train sets off.

“Checking for someone who needs assistance is an important part of the On-board supervisor’s customer service role and demonstrates our commitment to helping all passengers, particularly those who need assistance. There is a world of difference between checking for someone who needs assistance and dispatching a train.”

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Huguenot   16/11/2016 at 14:12

Funny that then RMT is now raising these customer assistance issues. What do they think happens on Thameslink, Great Northern and other DOO services, some of which have used this method of operation safely since the mid-1980s? Southern has guaranteed no complusory redundancies. The RMT's position is completely untenable. The operator should not give in or we'll all be worse off.

Lutz   16/11/2016 at 19:54

What I do not understand is why GTR has not started on burying the RMT in legal prosecutions for this program of deliberate obstruction, non-performance of duties, disinformation, politically motivated activism to undermine a normal business. etc. This has gone on too long - kindly bury them!

Martin T   19/11/2016 at 10:57

The RMT has only ONE real concern. It wants to be able to stop all trains running when it is in dispute and is continually changing its stance to think up new arguments to make a case for being able to do so. Th DfT will never give in on this. The RMT has only itself to blame because of all the industrial action it has taken in the past. The RMT has lost this fight. It needs to focus on doing the best for its members in the future not fighting to cling onto the past.

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